Love or freedom…the choice is hers.
VIENNA, AUSTRIA, 1892. Lady Leandra Von Kurzberg is a hellion. Raised with seven older brothers, there is only one thing Lena fears: marriage. She has no desire to give up her freedom to be any lord’s broodmare.
When Lena meets the dangerously attractive Devereux twins, she is smitten. Inexplicably drawn to both men, the brothers are polar opposites—as much as Christian is every inch the debonair Duke of D’Avigny, his brother Lucian is a roguish scoundrel bent on hedonism.
But the captivating twins aren’t what they seem…
As frightening truths are unveiled and a one-of-a-kind offer is made, Lena will have to decide whether love is worth the loss of her freedom, or if freedom is worth the ultimate cost…her life.
Lena bit her lip as Arabella shot her a naughty wink and ambled off to meet Fabian who had moved to the far side of the room. He handed his blades to the waiting footmen before receiving her. Lena stood, rooted to the spot as Lucian approached after greeting her brother. She half wished she wasn’t wearing a ratty pair of breeches that looked as if they’d been trampled by a herd of angry elephants.
“Wagner said you would be down here,” Lucian said. “And Arabella who arrived at the same time offered to show me the way.” He paused, his eyes drifting closed for a scant second, a sublime look crossing his face. “You smell…delicious.”
Lena couldn’t help it—she laughed. “You do say the oddest things, my lord. And I assure you, I am as sweaty as a sheep on a hot summer day.”
“Do sheep get sweaty?” he asked without missing a beat.
“One can imagine they would under all that wool.”
“I suppose,” he said and leaned in slightly as if to scent her. Her pulse soared and Lena fought the urge to move back a step, not because she was afraid, but out of some sudden desire for sheer self-preservation. While Christian had been reserved, she was certain that this brother did not hold himself to the same code. No, Lucian took. He was a man who sought pleasure wherever it was for the taking. It didn’t matter that her brother stood a few feet away, despite being distracted. “Sheep aside, your perfume is delightful.”
“Soap and sweat, my lord.” She expelled a shallow breath. “Nothing more.”
“The purest essence of woman.”
“Why are you here?” she asked, blushing. He made those five words sound like something dirty. She was grateful that Fabian and Arabella were both out of earshot.
Lucian bowed with a flourish. “Why, to prove myself, of course. And what better way than to allow a capable woman the chance to slit my throat.”
“You wish to die, Lord Devereux?”
An unfathomable expression crossed his face, but it was soon eclipsed by a brilliant smile. “Alas, my extraordinary skills preclude that very outcome.”
“Confident, are we?” Lena said and raised her blades. “You do realize that I could defeat you blindfolded.”
Lucian’s gray eyes widened. “Is that a challenge?”
“Only if you want it to be.”
Their clash of wills was interrupted by Fabian and Arabella who announced that they were going to take a stroll in the gardens. Lena rolled her eyes at the bright blush that covered Arabella’s cheeks. An evening stroll was just another way of saying that they were going to do what engaged couples did in secluded gardens. Kissing and whatnot. An unexpected spurt of envy curled through her. Perhaps Lord Devereux would also welcome such a stroll. She slid a glance to him, noting the dissolute turn of his mouth and revised her earlier desire. A stroll in the garden with this man would involve nothing less than complete and utter ruination.
AMALIE HOWARD grew up in Trinidad & Tobago where she spent most of her childhood with her nose buried in a book or running around barefoot, shimmying up mango trees, and dreaming of adventure. 25 countries, surfing with sharks, and several tattoos later, she has traded in bungee jumping in China for writing the adventures she imagines instead. She isn’t entirely convinced which takes more guts.
An aspiring writer from a young age, Amalie’s poem “The Candle,” written at age twelve, was published by the University of Warwick press. At fifteen, she was a recipient of a Royal Commonwealth Society Essay Award (a global youth writing competition). A Colby College graduate, she completed dual Honors Theses in both French and International Studies, and graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. At Colby, she was cited for her research contribution to Raffael Scheck’s article, “German Conservatism and Female Political Activism in the Early Weimar Republic,” and his subsequent book, Mothers of the Nation. She also received a distinction in English Literature from the University of Cambridge (A-levels) as well as a postgraduate certificate in French Literature from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France. Traveling the globe, she has worked as a research assistant, account executive, and global channel sales director for a Fortune 500 company.
She is the award-winning author of several young adult novels critically acclaimed by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, SLJ, VOYA, and Booklist, including Waterfell, The Almost Girl, and Alpha Goddess, a Spring 2014 Kid’s INDIE NEXT title. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was a #1 Amazon bestseller, and the sequel, Bloodcraft, was a national silver IPPY medalist and a silver Moonbeam award winner. She is also the co-author of the adult historical romance series, THE LORDS OF ESSEX. As an author of color and a proud supporter of diversity in fiction, her articles on multicultural fiction have appeared in The Portland Book Review and on the popular Diversity in YA blog. She currently resides in Colorado with her husband and three children.